Johannesburg - Stone throwing students from the Witwatersrand University - who are protesting against fees hikes - on Wednesday engaged in running battles with police who in turn fired stun grenades, rubber bullets and tear gas at them.
After engaging in long meetings all morning, Wits students decided to take their protest to the streets in Braamfontein, where they were confronted by heavily armed police officers.
The police told the students they needed permission to protest on the streets. After a standoff there were scuffles that developed into running battles.
Police fired rubber bullets and stun grenades at the students who were in their hundreds. Some of the students ran away others threw stones at the police.
The students moved back to campus and gathered by the Great Hall holding stones and singing struggle songs.
Several students were injured during the standoff, however, paramedics were not allowed inside campus and on-campus medics attended to the injured students.
Students have chased some journalists away and said that they do not want any media branded cars inside campus. The students claim that the media have “misrepresented” them.
Apparently the earlier march into Braamfontein was an attempt to bring the protest to the business sector which student activists said must contribute to their cause for free education at universities.
“This year’s leadership is not organised, it’s like we don’t know what we are doing,” said one of the students who seemed annoyed by the new developments.
Some students decided to sit on the ground and open their books at the main entrance of the campus.
“We can’t allow police to bully us, all we want is to study and they are denying us that right, they should leave us alone to study,” said one the students who sat defiantly in the ground.
Other students continued to protest at the Wits main entrance singing struggle songs and also expressed their anger at police.
“If we are wrong history will judge us, but these same police will want their kids to study at this university for free,” said one student who has been leading the protest since Monday.
Earlier, students protested inside the campus, where they mobilised workers to join their protest.
The campus has been overflowing with heavy police presence since Wednesday morning. Some police officers were patrolling the learning institution using horses to monitor the situation.
After singing and marching around campus, the students have been locked in a meetings and were still refusing the media to be part of their discussions. But, word circulating around campus was that they were discussing whether to continue protesting on the streets or seeks other options.
The students were separated in two groups, one includes general students and the other one it’s student leaders.
Tawana Kupe the vice chancellor at Wits condemned Tuesday’s clash between security guards and students for pelting stones at each other, which lead to the the damage of the entrance of the Great Hall.
The private security company involved has since been removed from campus.
The students have been protesting since Monday after Higher Education Minister Blade Nzimande announced that State universities could increase fees for 2017, capped at 8 percent.
Nzimande has condemned the violence. He said students must protect and preserve institutions of academic excellence and not destroy learning facilities
“It is most disturbing to see such violent protests inflamed by rogue elements after wide consultation was undertaken on the measures announced this week to address the ongoing issue of university fees,” Nzimande said in a statement
Busisiwe Seabe a student at Wits who has also been leading the #FeesMustFall said the fight for free education is not over and they would not allow the university to resume until they have free education.
“We want to protest until the government hears us,” she said.
On Tuesday several students were arrested following a clash with police after they tried to block entrances to the institution’s Braamfontein campus.
The students were released on Wednesday on a warning.